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How to find deer part 2: sounds, paths and dusk


Last week I wrote about how to tell if deer lived in a wood by looking for footprints, poo and deer fences. This week I am going to write about more signs to help find out whether deer live in the area you are exploring.

  • Listen for barks or roars

Deer are normally quite quiet animals but they can make noises to talk to other deer. This red deer stag is roaring to scare off other males and attract females during the rut, which happens in September and October. You can sometimes hear the sound even thought you can't see the deer.

If deer are startled they can bark to warn other deer to run away. The bark sounds a bit like the bark of a dog.
  • Tracks and paths

Deer like to go the same way through woods, and their hooves make a path over time. The path in the picture above goes between the edge of the wood where there are fields where they go at dusk, all the way back into the woods. Other animals make paths too, but if you find a path this big it's usually either humans or deer that have made it.

In pine woods, like the one in the picture above, forestry workers chop off the branches down a row of trees to make a path for the deer to go down. If you look you can see a path with the branches they have chopped off down the middle. If you find a path like this, it's usually because there are deer living there.

In summer, deer cover mud on themselves to protect themselves about insects which can live on them or bite them. You can sometimes find mud wallows which is a good place to look for footprints.
  • Go at dusk

Deer are crepuscular, which means they are mostly active at dawn and dusk, although you can find them during the day as well. So if you go first thing in the morning or last thing at night, you have more chance of finding them. The deer is the picture is a three month old red deer calf that dad saw after sunset in a field near their wood.
  • Gamekeepers

Gamekeepers manage herds of deer and shoot some of them at certain time of the year. They build gamekeepers seats, hidden in trees or bushes to shoot deer from. The photograph above is of a double seat built into a tree on a moor near my house. In April, Dad and I had our lunch sitting in that seat !

The picture above shows a scaffolding frame with a seat at the top of it in another deer wood nearby. The gamekeeper has put branches at the side to hide it.

If you are really, really lucky you can find a gamekeepers pit or poachers pit, where they dump the heads and lower legs of deer they shoot. Pits are a really good place to find deer skulls.

  • Flattened grass

If you find an area where the grass has been flattened, it can sometimes mean that deer (usually roe deer) have been lying there to rest. If the flattened grass is in a figure of eight, then it can mean that roe bucks have been fighting with each other.

  • Things they have eaten

Lots of animals chew bark and eat plants, but you can tell if it's deer if it's high up. This branch was chewed at last winter, and it was much too high to be rabbits, so it must have been the the roe deer that lived in that wood. You can even see the teeth marks.

These reeds have been chewed high up too, too high for rabbits. When rabbits eat they bite through the stalk because they only have top and bottom incisors. Deer have only got bottom incisors, so they sometimes leave a thin strip behind on the reeds or crops they eat.

This pine cone has been nibbled, but it's hard to tell whether it was nibbled by deer or squirrels.
  • Road signs

Road signs are put up where deer cross a main road a lot. It doesn't always mean that deer are there all the time or even all year,  but it can mean deer are nearby. The picture on the sign is of a red deer but it means the same for all types of deer in the UK.

I hope this helps you find deer near where you live !

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Alan MacKenzie said...

Thanks for the guide, Jake. I knew about all of your tips, except for the one about forestry workers cutting off low branches to allow deer to create paths for themselves. I see these types of paths in Friston Forest, East Sussex. Thanks to your guide, I now know why they are there. The forestry workers didn't need to cut off the lower branches, however, because beech trees tend to have most of their branches at the canopy level.

Roe and Fallow deer live in Friston Forest, but they are very elusive. I've only seen them twice and they fled. I prefer to stalk deer at the Willoughby Fields, West Sussex or Stanmer Down, East Sussex. The Roe deer are more used to people and will often stare at me. On one occasion, a doe walked through a wheat field to get a closer look at me. All the pictures are on my website.

Keep up the good work.

Best regards, Alan.

Jake said...

Thank you ! I really like the photos on your blog.

Alan MacKenzie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Darryl said...

I know it's an old post but that a spruce come not a pine cone and it's not even been nibbled

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